Dear neighbour, want to swap houses?

Allison Eagen, her husband, Brad Hewton, and three young kids live in Old Ottawa South in a house that's rapidly becoming too small for their growing family.

"We have one bathroom for five people that's starting to feel a little tight," Eagen, 35, told CBC's Ottawa Morning Monday.

Two years ago, they started looking for a bigger house in the same neighbourhood. But demand has outstripped supply in this corner of Ottawa's hot housing market.

'We're looking at a very small geographic area, and there's not a lot of supply.' - Allison Eagen

"We're looking at a very small geographic area, and there's not a lot of supply. There are very few listings that come up, and when they do come up they sell very quickly and it's very competitive."

Denise Fung/CBC

Multiple offers mean properties go for more than asking as bidding wars break out and push prices higher.

"It wasn't really the way we wanted to find the place that we were going to live in for the next 20 or 30 years … sort of rushing through the process," Eagen said.

A different approach

So the family decided to try something out of the ordinary.

They wrote a letter suggesting a house swap and dropped it off to 40 neighbours, hoping someone with a larger home looking to downsize — but remain in the neighbourhood, where smaller houses are especially hard to come by — will be interested in a trade.

The letter starts like this: "Dear neighbour, we are distributing this letter in the hopes of finding our forever home."

Jonathan Hayward/Canadian Press

It goes on to suggest a possible trade, and explains the family would pay the difference in house values.

Eagen said the idea is to "reach out to those people that might be thinking about selling but aren't quite sure if they want to cross that bridge. We thought this might help motivate them."

No bites yet

So far, no one has accepted the offer, but the family has received responses including tips about neighbours who may be close to putting their house on the market. Others who have kids in their late teens confided they're "starting to think about what they're going to do next," Eagen said.

If the gambit fails, Eagen said the family will consider renovating their existing home rather than leaving Old Ottawa South, a neighbourhood they love.

Denise Fung/CBC

Still, she remains optimistic they'll find a kindred spirit — and a bigger home.

"We would know that our house is going to someone that's really going to care for it … and they would know the same thing," Eagen said.

If you have a story about an unorthodox way you found a home in this city, share it with us